Rachel Bailey discovers the opportunities for studying the nature of religion, Christianity and spiritual experience at the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Learning in the Holy House at the Anglican Shrine

Walsingham is a village in Norfolk, famed for its religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary and for being a major pilgrimage centre.

The Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham is a site within the village that offers an educational programme which encourages pupils of all ages to experience the spirituality of the shrine while learning about Christianity.

A choice of workshops

The Anglican shrine provides a number of workshops relating to different parts of the National Curriculum for Key Stages 1 to 4.

Links include learning about Christianity and ways that individuals express their beliefs in terms of worship; the influence which religion has on the way individuals live their lives; and key features of Christianity such as the teaching and values behind patterns of worship.

Pilgrimage is another topic that features strongly in the shrine’s education programme. Workshops on this subject include:

To Be a Pilgrim
Key Stages 1 and 2

This workshops provides a class with the opportunity to dress up as Medieval pilgrims to re-enact a pilgrimage at the ruins of an original priory church while discovering what happened there.

The class will also visit the Anglican shrine to take part in the ceremony of sprinkling (drinking of the well water) at the Holy Well.

Anglican Shrine Sprinkling Service

Pilgrimage Walk with the Tudors
Key Stages 1 and 2

This session offers a day of active learning for younger children, including the chance to put on Tudor costumes. Children will look at Tudor life in the village, including the housing, the class system, and the importance of religion. There is an optional Tudor banquet included in this workshop also.

The Pilgrimage Experience
Key Stages 3 and 4

Students can enjoy a workshop that provides the opportunity to experience pilgrimage for themselves. The day includes a visit to the Roman Catholic shrine followed by walking the Holy Mile to the Anglican shrine to gain an insight into pilgrimage at both places.

Learning about different religions

Walsingham has churches belonging to four denominations and the Walsingham Churches Trail offers pupils a way of discovering the differences and similarities in worship by visiting each one in turn. This experience is available for all Key Stages.

School group at the shrine

The ruins of the old priory with the original shrine site as well as the Russian Orthodox chapel, Methodist and the Roman Catholic churches in the village provide comparisons for visitors.

By following this trail students are able to learn about at least two other religions and/or worldviews, focusing on the way in which beliefs, practices and ways of life link together while also recognising the diversity of each faith.

Discovering and expressing religious views

As well learning through a workshop, students can learn about religious beliefs from the mouths of real people at the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

It is possible for teachers to arrange a talk by a priest or nun who will speak about their own spiritual experience and vocational journey.

Discussion groups can also be led by clergy, monks and nuns on key moral and ethical issues; teachers can organise this by booking their class into a Responses workshop.

Make a day of it

A full school’s day programme usually starts at 10.30am and finishes at 2.30pm, although the day can be extended to fit more in if desired.

Students will have the chance to explore the shrine gardens and the Anglican Church which has a number of chapels with wall paintings, stained glass windows and icons.

Priory grounds

Worksheets can be provided for some of the workshops, and teachers are always sent a fact sheet on the history of the shrine prior to a visit so that they can explain to the pupils what the shrine is and why it was built before they see it for themselves. 

There are also resource booklets for the pilgrimage programmes which can be used by teachers in the classroom.

For further information call 01328-824205 or visit www.walsinghamanglican.org.uk.